When you take a classic and give it a fresh lick of paint, you’ll want to cover two fan bases. The retro gaming fans will want the old experience with a new set of clothes but you’ll want to bring a new audience in too. It’s often unenviable to be in this position and its one I’m not sure Centipede Recharged has got quite right.
The game is stripped right back to its basic gameplay roots. One hit one kill, you’ll shoot centipedes crawling down your screen like a neon green space invader. The original gameplay loop is here for you to enjoy and as an arcade experience, it holds up well. As you kill parts of a centipede they leave bumper mushrooms that you can shoot to clear and this is key as too many mushrooms means the centipedes will reach you quicker. As a character, you are locked into the bottom third of the screen with free movement inside that area. However, the centipedes will very quickly start to fill up that space and move up and down it, causing you to tread carefully whilst shooting them clear. This all still works really well.
There are some changes that I’m less fond of. With the advent of a widescreen playing area (yay) strangely comes a slightly slower shot fire speed (nay). The two compound each other to make it slightly tricky to time your shots and make use of your bullets. Mushrooms also take a fair few bullets to clear and so you often don’t have time to clear much at all because your fire speed is low. This is made more annoying when scorpions and fleas lay loads of new ones everywhere as soon as you start making some progress on the high score charts. It sounds like such an odd complaint but the lack of fire speed on a wider playing area just feels a bit unfair. This lead me to killing spiders which only appear on the lower third to farm power ups. These improve the fire rate or add on spread shots, side shots or a laser shot. The way the game is set up, its as if you constantly need a power up to feel like you have a chance. I also ran into several issues getting my controls to register correctly too.
All of that still makes for a good if slightly short lived arcade experience and part of this is down to the fact there is only one main mode with a one hit death ending. Online leaderboards are great but I’d have liked sliding difficulties, multi lives modes or the ability to tweak settings. Some of this would also involve the colour palette which I found made anything that wasn’t green or purple tricky to see. To its credit, the game is available to play in co-op throughout and maybe that’s meant to be the main way in given the gameplay tweaks.
Outside of the fun but narrow focus on the main game there are 30 challenge stages, each with an online leaderboard. I ended up gravitating towards these more than the main game due to the variety of screen layouts and end goals. I’d have loved this to come across into the main game to create levels so-to-speak to give the main game a feeling of progression. You need to be an online leaderboard score chaser to really get the most out of Centipede Recharged.
Whilst I think it does a good job of bringing the idea and mechanics that Centipede expertly crafted back to modern consoles and PC, I think in order to recommend it properly, it would need some options to broaden its horizons out. At present its narrow game focus means its only for retro or arcade high score chasers only who want to grind out on the same couple of mechanics over and over again. I’d have loved some variation personally, which is why it didn’t quite click so well with me.
Review copy provided by publisher.
Light on content and less visceral than its originals, whilst Centipede Recharged is perfectly serviceable, I'm not sure retro gamers or newcomers will quite click with what it does.
Still a great arcade game concept.
Online leaderboards could keep you coming back.
Playable in Co-Op throughout.
Bullet speed is too slow and often feels imprecise.
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